Silver Key hosts 100 at open house; plaque, kind words for ailing Kraushaar

       Despite the disappointing news that popular former CEO Mikki Kraushaar was too sick to come, approximately 100 people visited the Silver Key Senior Services open house Sept. 14, looked around the partially remodeled facility at 2250 Bott Ave. and met recently hired CEO Michael Decker. Most also stayed to hear him talk about what Kraushaar has meant to the private, non-profit agency for the elderly as well as his goals for its future.
       “ 'Tell them this,' ” he quoted what Kraushaar asked him to say. “ 'I love them all very much.' ”
       It would have been her first public appearance at Silver Key since she was asked to resign in 2004 as part of a modernization effort by the agency's board. Kraushaar had been with the agency 33 years - since its creation in 1971 - leading the development of programs that are chiefly geared to help lower-income seniors who want to keep living in their own homes. Decker, who was hired last May, has defended the need for the agency upgrades but called for a return to the generous spirit that was behind her innovations. “Silver Key has always been about one-to-one acts of kindness,” he said.
       Many of the open-house attendees were former volunteers - some of whom had dropped away in the years since Kraushaar left. “I hope to make them current volunteers once again,” he said.
       In an interview this summer, Kraushaar endorsed Decker, who has prior experience in nursing homes and as director of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) Area Agency on Aging. “He is steeped in loving concern for the elderly,” she said in the Westside Pioneer Aug. 2.
       The future will be a challenge for senior care, Decker pointed out, in that the number of people over age 60 is expected to double within 10 years. Silver Key has a sketch of a large new facility to handle such needs, but Decker said its estimated $10 million cost is currently well out of reach. The agency is funded through private donations, with assistance from government entities.
       Giving some history of Silver Key, he noted that at the outset “there was no grand strategy” that would eventually lead to its transportation program handling 60,000 seniors' trips a year, or Meals on Wheels (bringing cooked food to homes), or guardianship (Silver Key handles medical and other decisions for about 75 seniors who have been legally deemed mentally incompetent), or for individual case management (which can lead to a wide range of personalized assistance). To this day, he said, “A lot of requests we get are on an emergency basis. People turn to Silver Key because they don't know who else to call.”
       The agency “formed and shaped itself over the years through the tireless, sacrificial efforts of Mikki Kraushaar,” Decker said. “We at Silver Key are grateful for her vision and her heart as well.”
       Providing her address to open house attendees, he asked them to join an “impromptu card shower for her” during her recovery. “She would appreciate a card from you,” he said. “It would help her very much.”
       He also revealed plans for a plaque in her honor (delivered to her this week), which includes the “common-sense” wishes of the elderly, as Kraushaar once related to him: “Something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.”

Westside Pioneer article